Grandma Danced with the Arkansas Traveler from Apple & Setser

The peripatetic fiddle tune, Arkansas Traveler, must be among the most enduring and satisfying numbers to emerge from the fiddle traditions of the old south. Its actual origin is uncertain, though some traditional music historians place it with Sandford C. Faulkner, an Arkansas fiddler and plantation owner, who performed the tune along with a story about a man who wandered through the state, meeting a number of different people along the way. Others insist that the tune is of Appalachian derivation, and that Faulkner merely appropriated it for his own use.

Like so much folklore, the issue is most likely insoluble, and it gives even more cachet to the charming melody, which has served as the basis for many vaudeville skits, and in a number of memorable Looney Tunes cartoons, in which it became synonymous with barnyard scenes, along with Chicken Reel and Turkey in the Straw.

Arkansas Traveler has also spawned a number of bluegrass songs, in addition to remaining as a standard instrumtental in both the bluegrass and old time repertoires. Guy Clark and Shawn Camp wrote a fine song utilizing the same tune with Sis Draper, telling of a female fiddler who created a storm wherever she went, which was covered in fine fashion by Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder in 2004. It also popped up in Appalachian Road Show’s Ballad of Kidder Cole in the past year.

Now Apple & Setser have brought a new one forward, one called Grandma Danced with the Arkansas Traveler, written by Brad Apple and Charley Sandage, about a little old lady who comes alive when the fiddle music plays on Friday nights. It’s their latest single with Bell Buckle Records.

Pam Setser sings the lead, with Brad Apple on guitar, bass, and mandolin, and Tim Crouch providing banjo and fiddle. Pam and Brad add harmony vocals. The melody of Arkansas Traveler forms the basis of the song, and it makes a fine addition to the folklore of the tune.

Have a listen…

Grandma Danced With The Arkansas Traveler is available now from popular download and streaming services online, and to radio programmers via AirPlay Direct.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.